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Chapter 15 : Blindside
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Chapter 15: Blindside
‘Are you alright?’
‘Ughhfppghh,’ Oliver replies dazedly, his hands cradling his face, blood seeping through his fingers.
‘Oi! Sir!’ I hear someone – probably Lee – shouting behind me. ‘He’s hurt!’
‘Ifth’s my nodthse,’ Oliver mumbles.
‘What?’ Angie asks, leaning over my shoulder.
‘It’s his nose,’ I translate before leaning down and gently pulling his hands away. ‘Ssssh,’ I soothe, ‘I just want to have a look – agh.’ Broken. Definitely broken – just crunched right down. Wood is making little animal noises of pain, and so, as gently as I can, I take his shoulders. Behind me I can hear Dobbs puffing over, asking what’s happened, but I don’t care. All that matters at the moment is getting Wood to hospital. ‘Oliver,’ I say very clearly, ‘Oliver, you’ve got to stand up.’
‘Think you might have addled something,’ Fred informs me, looking up from Wood’s bleary gaze.
‘Oh piss,’ I mumble, not in the mood for a joke. Before Dobbs can stop me, I’ve grabbed Wood by the shoulders and physically hoisted him off the ground. ‘Just lean on me,’ I order, slinging his arm round my shoulders and starting towards the castle. ‘That’s it, one foot then the other,’ I say as he makes a clumsy attempt at walking. ‘Come on then –‘
‘Miss Verity!’ I hear Dobbs calling after me, but I’ve already got Wood to the edge of the lawn and I just flap a hand behind me.
‘She’s taking him to hospital…’ Angie begins, but by then Wood and I are around the corner and can’t hear anything else.
‘My facedth hurdths,’ Wood informs me loopily.
‘Yeah, I know,’ I reply, unable to resist looking. Immediately I turn away: its horrible. There’s blood coursing down over his chin, his eyes are swelling and blacking up nicely, and his nose is oddly squashed in the centre. And it’s all my fault. For a moment, that’s the worst – knowing I did it. I didn’t mean to – honestly, I didn’t – I don’t like Wood but… ‘Who areth youdth?’ he asks, patting a hand on the arm that’s slung round him, holding him up. ‘Wheresth are we goindths?’
‘Hospital,’ I manage to say, because he’s quite a bit of weight, really, when you’re just one supporting him.
‘Mmmmddth,’ is his only reply, and by then I’ve got him to the stairs and life is looking progressively better.
‘He’s concussed,’ Madame Pomfrey informs me twenty minutes later as she neatly snaps the curtains round the cot closed. ‘Nasty blow to the face that – what did you say it was?’
Blushing, I stare at my trainers. ‘A crogghghppg bafhhg.’
‘What was that?’
‘A croquet ball!’ I squeak, feeling my cheeks positively scorch.
‘Ahhhh,’ Madame Pomfrey says knowingly, her gaze sharp and shrewd. ‘Didn’t Mr. Wood escort you here only a few days ago?’
‘Yes,’ I mumble, and she clucks. ‘It was an accident!’ I blurt, suddenly desperate for her to know that. ‘It was an accident!’
‘Well of course it was pet,’ she pats my hand. ‘If you were going to hit him with something on purpose, you would have used the mallet, wouldn’t you?’
‘Well, probably,’ I say before it registers that the school nurse has just said this. For a few moments I stare at her, the implications of this sinking in. Who knew Pomfrey had a sense of humour?
She’s smiling slyly and turning away now, and over her shoulder she says, ‘You can see him, but I’ll warn you – he’s not in the best of moods.’
With that she taps off back to her office to do whatever it is she does when people need to apologise to the infirm, and I am left staring at the white curtains surrounding Oliver’s – Wood’s bed. He’ll kill you my common sense says. Best if you do a runner now – he’s likely to be moving slow, and you could probably be in London before he’s gotten things together… ‘Don’t be such a pansy,’ I murmur to myself, and, squaring my shoulders, pull back the curtain.
I almost can’t step forward - he looks so…pale. And childlike, lying there on the bright white sheets, his hair so dark against the pillow. His lashes too, near-black crescents in his face, so long I wonder how he manages not to tangle them when he blinks. It occurs to me that I’ve never really seen Wood with his eyes closed before. At least not from this angle my mind sniggers, and I have the grace to blush. Helpless, helpless and young, I think, shifting a bit closer, young – and – oh piss.
‘What are you doing here?’ he growls, his eyes snapping open at the sound of my shoe on the floor, glaring at me, no longer hazy, but furious.
‘Er – um – ‘
‘Honestly, you’re the only person I know who can turn a ruddy garden sport into a physical assault.’
Alright, yes, I did hit him in the face with a croquet ball – but does he have to be so hostile about it? Of course, if it were me.... ‘And you’re the only person I know who deserves to be attacked by a wooden ball,’ I snap back, my hands going to my hips.
‘What? Are you actually saying you’re not at fault here?’ he gasps, sounding much sturdier than he looked moments ago. I find myself wishing that that Wood would come back – but wait, what am I saying? All I do with Wood is fight…and I…like it?
‘I’m no more at fault than you are,’ I reply stubbornly, folding my arms over my chest and sticking my chin out mulishly.
‘And how do you figure that?’
‘Look, you were the one being a prat, nattering on about how I was too delicate to play – its not my fault you got in my way! Any normal person would have been furious with you – it was your stupid idea to have a go at me when I was holding a mallet. You know how I am with sticks!’ He winces and his hands jerk to cover his groin; he has less-than-fond memories of Care of Magical Creatures three years ago, when I used a stick to fend off a rampaging manticore. Of course, Wood was my partner then too…
‘You attacked me!’ he shouts back, overcoming the memory of the pain. ‘You deliberately hit that ball at me – ‘
‘I did not! It was an accident –‘
‘Listen to me, you bastard - ’
‘CHILDREN!’ We both whirl to see Madame Pomfrey standing just a bit away, her yell having cut through our arguement, which must have got quite loud at the end. ‘Never in my life – in hospital, too. Miss Verity, if you can’t contain yourself, I’ll have to ask you to leave.’
‘Go on – I don’t want her here to see me,’ Wood snaps, turning his head away from me.
‘Oh like I’d come to visit,’ I sneer.
‘You’re standing there, aren’t you?’
‘Only because it was me that had to drag your dizzy arse to hospital-‘
‘Listen here you –‘
‘OUT!’ Madame Pomfrey shrills, pointing stiff-armed to the door. ‘Out and don’t come back until you can be civil. Honestly, the two of you –‘ as she speaks she marches me to door and forces me out of it.
I only get my foot in just in time, and through the crack I say, ‘He’ll be fit for the match, won’t he?’
She must hear the note of desperation in my voice, because she pauses and heaves a heavy sigh. ‘Yes, Miss Verity, he’ll return to classes tomorrow – go on now, and mind those ribs!’
With that she slams the door in my face, and something inside of me shivers. Wood is angry – very, very angry, and for some odd reason that makes me sad. It’s a bit like thinking Angie is angry with me, only somehow sadder, and I can’t think why. Of course, I’ve never hit Angie with anything like a ball or a stick before, so maybe that’s it… yeah, right.
I trudge away from the hospital wing, not in the mood to return to class, and definitely not in the mood to face questions from the others. What would I say – “Wood’s fit, but he’s booted me out of hospital, don’t know if he’d like to see you”? No, thanks. I can’t even attend training this afternoon – not because we won’t be having it, but because I’m fairly sure Wood will be there even if can’t sit his broom. Of course he gets to go to training injured, it’s just me that’s too – too –
‘Oh sod it,’ I say aloud, turning round and making for Gryffindor tower. If I’m supposed to be an invalid, then I’m bloody well going to act like one. I’ve had enough of this shite – I’m taking to my bed.
The others return from training with wary expressions and exhausted sighs – no one mentions the croquet incident, for which I’m grateful. And if they think its odd that I’m curled up in my bed, noshing on chocolates and reading an ancient copy of Quidditch World, they don’t mention that either. Instead they let me be, take showers, and quietly leave for dinner. Since I’m stuffed full of truffles and creames, I decline accompanying them, and I’ve shut my curtains by the time they return. Not that I go to sleep – no, that eludes me, and I lie there, arms behind my head, ribs aching faintly, and think about how ridiculous this whole situation is. Honestly, who gets into a row over something this – this stupid?
Because that’s what it is – stupid. Stupid and pointless and unbearably immature. And I know that I’ll never be able to say that to Wood, because he’ll laugh at me, and somehow the idea of that – of him thinking I’m dumb – makes me feel ill. Wood doesn’t particularly like me, I know that very well, but I also know he views me as an equal – else we wouldn’t argue all the time. We might not get along, but in an odd way we respect one another. Or, we did before I started abusing him with Muggle sporting equipment.
It will pass my common sense soothes. You’ve had worse rows. With a long sigh I shut my eyes and firmly tell myself that I ought to just go to sleep – I’ll not solve anything lying here in my bed, whinging to myself. But, of course, that’s exactly what I continue to do…
I’m on my broom and in the air Friday afternoon when Wood arrives for training, and he doesn’t object. I’ve seen him several times throughout the day, but he’s always looked away, or out and out ignored me. He’s had plenty to distract him too, what with Delia and the like cooing over his rapidly fading black eyes. Not that you can tell his nose was ever squashed and flattened – no, Madame Pomfrey sorted it right out, and it’s as straight and perfect as it ever was. Needless to say, I’m not particularly cheerful – and the weather doesn’t help. It’s a nasty evening, clouds rolling in, the air getting cool. The entire time he’s yelling at me to pick it up, telling me my game’s suffered, that I’m slow and sorry and not doing well at all. I just keep pushing. And pushing. Muscles I didn’t know I had are aching, my nose is bloodied thanks to a careless swing of a beater’s bat when Fred didn’t see me behind him, and my ribs are burning like fire by the time we land, but I’ve done well. And I know it. Even if Wood won’t say it.
‘All right, turn in early,’ he orders before sending us in to change. ‘No staying up in the common room to snog, no late night gossiping – sleep. As much of it as you can get. We meet tomorrow for breakfast. Go.’
‘He’s turned a bit military, hasn’t he?’ Katie groans as we trudge into the lockers.
‘Yeah,’ Angie agrees. ‘But if we win the cup this year, then Gryffindor will be on a seven year winning streak – not to mention he’ll be the captain of a team that’s never lost a match. That’s pretty impressive, especially if you want to play professionally.’
‘Let’s just hope it gets us all a job,’ Alicia yawns.
‘Let’s just win,’ I say flatly, and head to the shower.
We follow Wood’s orders exactly, going to bed at ten and sleeping until the next morning. We’re all up early, staring dismally out the window at large purple black rain clouds that could open on us at any moment. ‘Course it would rain today,’ I mutter to myself as I get dressed. ‘Why not? Everything else has gone wrong this week.’
At breakfast Jasper stops by to wish us well. ‘You’ll be fine,’ he assures me, brushing my fringe back off my face and arranging it more artfully. I’d pinned it back earlier, but apparently not well enough for him. ‘Its just Hufflepuff.’
‘Yeah,’ I say evenly. ‘Just Hufflepuff.’
‘Don’t tell me you get nervous,’ he gasps, smiling.
I have to grin – he’s so nice. ‘Not a bit. Just thinking about how horrible Millicent Bulstrode looks in that – that – I don’t even know what to call it.’
We both turn to stare. ‘Poncho,’ Jasper says at last. ‘I think it’s supposed to be a poncho – looks like she stole it off the back of an Ecuadorian farm donkey.’
We have a good laugh at this, and Jasper even manages to coax me into eating a bit before Wood stands and calls us to the field. ‘See you later?’ I ask hopefully.
He nods. ‘I’ll find you after. Good luck!’
It turns out we need every bit of it. The skies open as soon as we step inside the changing rooms, not a gentle drizzle or even a steady rain – it’s an outright downpour, really pissing down and showing no signs of stopping. Wood gives his typical inarticulate, I’m – so – nervous – I – can’t – speak rallying speech, and shoves us out the door. We’re drenched in seconds, right through the padding to the skin. It’s raining so hard we can barely even see the stands, let alone the bludgers and the quaffle. The snitch will be a nightmare. At least the Hufflepuffs wear a yellow so atomically bright you could spot it in the middle of a fog from five miles off. ‘This is going to be murder!’ Wood yells over the sound of the rain.
‘Then just make sure it’s not ours!’ I yell back, and mount my broom. The moment the whistle goes off, I’m in the air. I don’t care about the others – no one’s going to be able to score or keep in weather like this – the wind is erratic, you can’t see, and the quaffle will be so slippery no one will be able to keep hold of it. The only thing in my mind is the snitch, and come hell or high water it will be in my hand before this is over. My brain turns everything else off. There is no crowd. No pitch below me. No game being fought out by soggy figures atop waterlogged brooms. There is only me, and the raindrops, and a tiny blot of gold fluttering through it all. Time pools around me as I soar high, looking for anything. It feels like hours pass, and then I spot it, a tiny flicker of gold like a misplaced dapple of sun in all the murky water, and I dive without thinking, dropping out of the sky like a stone.
Angie told me later that I looked like some fell spirit swooping down after a wayward soul, my quidditch robes flapping out behind me, one armed stretched forth. All I remember is snatching the tiny ball up, its saturated wings beating damply against my fingers, as I raise my arm in the air. Someone turns the volume back on and I can hear the roaring around me as I streak the length of the field towards Madame Hooch, holding the prize forth. Her whistle blows, I see her mouth form the word “Gryffindor!” but can’t hear her shout, and grin. It’s over.
‘Eight minutes – eight bloody minutes!’ George is screaming as we land, streaking over to me and knocking me flat into the mud. ‘You caught the snitch in EIGHT BLOODY MINUTES!!!!’
‘What? But it’s been hours –‘
Fred, cackling with delight, shows me his watch, and I feel my jaw drop. The others are hugging me, wrestling me into the mud, laughing. But there’s not time for just us, because the rest of the house has rushed the field, and are lifting us all into the air, muddy and disgusting, whirling us around and singing. Jasper arrives, grabs me up in a hug, and spins me around, swearing he doesn’t mind the muck.
‘Brilliant!’ he yells. ‘Absolutely brilliant.’
The celebration goes on until McGonagall orders everyone but the teams back up to the castle, and Wood sends us in to shower and change. We promise to arrive at the house party as soon as we can, and hurry in. High spirits abound – Madame Hooch says there’s a possibility we’ve set a new record for shortest match in school history – and by the time we’re through the showers I can barely stand it. We’ve won. All that terror for nothing. I’m changed ahead of the others and go into the hall to wait, running headlong into Wood.
I’m grinning, and in such a fine mood that I actually go to hug him out of high spirits, before remembering that this is Wood and I should restrain myself. ‘Not too shabby, eh?’ I ask, ducking under the arm he’s started to outstretch.
He stares at me for a moment, something crossing his face briefly. He looked almost…happy for a second. But now he’s cool and blank. ‘Everyone gets lucky once in awhile Verity – even you,’ he says. And then he turns and steps out into the rain, not waiting.
Just like that, my good mood is gone. I’m boiling inside, unable to keep it down. Why does he say these things? Why is nothing ever good enough? Before I can stop myself I’ve darted out into the rain after him, yelling. ‘What is your bloody problem? We won, Wood. We WON! All that hard work paid off – can’t you just be happy about it?’
I’ve caught him up, and just as I go to dash round to get in his face, he whirls to meet me. ‘So you caught the snitch, Verity – well done. Is that all you need to hear? There, it’s said. Congratulations.’
‘I’ve always known you’re a right shitheaded wanker, but that’s pretty crap, even for you! All you do is scream and yell and tell me I’m not good enough – that I’m slow, that I’m dragging, that I’m bringing everyone else down. All I want is the same thing you want – to win. Why can’t you just be happy about that? Is it because you’re not the hero today? Because you didn’t get what you wanted, so now you have to be in a strop so people will pay you attention?’
We stand there staring at one another, not caring that rain is soaking our clothes and hair, not caring that it’s gray and cold and our breath is fogging in the air around us. ‘Maybe I just like picking fights with you,’ he says in a low voice that somehow carries, making me shiver. ‘Maybe I just like to make you angry.’
Another moment passes, and I know that something’s going to happen. I ball up a fist to swing, but before I can even put it into motion we’re on one another, hands sliding over rain slicked flesh, fingers tangling in one another’s hair, mouths hot together, kissing fit to die.
A/N - did you see it coming? did you? of course you did - you're clever little readers, aren't you? and honestly, how do you NOT snog Oliver Wood in the rain? i just couldn't help myself - er... yssy just couldn't help herself...
in other news, you'll be glad to know that i'm now fully back on with the story - the next two chapters are written and require a bit (alright, loads...) of editing, but will be posted in relatively short order! yay for life calming down a bit!!! as always, thanks to all who review - i love hearing opinions on the story, and it warms my little heart to know that people are reading and thinking about it! (this is a massive hint for you to leave a review now, of course...)
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